2011 Arkansas State Preview
Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin
Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin
Posted Jun 29, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Arkansas State Red Wolves

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Hugh Freeze
1st year
3rd year overall: 20-5
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 27, ST 7
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Arkansas State Players
1. QB Ryan Aplin, Jr.
2. LB Demario Davis, Sr.
3. SS Kelcie McCray, Sr.
4. WR Dwayne Frampton, Sr.
5. WR Taylor Stockemer, Jr.
6. C Tom Castilaw, Sr.
7. WR Allen Muse, Jr.
8. RB Derek Lawson, Sr.
9. DE Dorvus Woods, Sr.
10. RB Jermaine Robertson, Sr.

Sept. 3 at Illinois
Sept. 10 Memphis
Sept. 17 at Virginia Tech
Sept. 24 Central Arkansas
Oct. 1 at WKU
Oct. 8 at ULM
Oct. 18 FIU
Oct. 29 North Texas
Nov. 5 at Florida Atlantic
Nov. 12 Louisiana
Nov. 19 at Middle Tenn.
Dec. 3 Troy
Nov. 20 at Navy
Nov. 27 at FIU

Arkansas State might not be all that great, but the season should be a whole bunch of fun … again.

Steve Roberts couldn't get the team over the hump to play at a consistently high level after taking the team to the 2006 Sun Belt title, and now it's up to Hugh Freeze to take everything he was able to do with the offense while getting more out a defense that went from special in 2009 to disastrous in 2010.

Freeze installed an up-tempo, no-huddle attack that did everything it was supposed to do. Ryan Aplin turned into the Sun Belt's best quarterback as the leader and playmaker who guided the offense to 403 yards and 30 points per game. The offense put up yards in chunks, and the running game was good enough to get by. But as good as the O was, it couldn't make up for the problems on the D.

After leading the league in most major categories in 2009, ASU was last in the Sun Belt in total defense and run defense forcing the Red Wolves to try to survive shootout after shootout. This year, with seven starters returning, the potential is there for a little bit of a turnaround, while the offense has the firepower to be even stronger.

All the top skill players are back, the defense is loaded with good veterans, and the special teams should be among the best in the conference. But can everything come together under Freeze to finally make ASU a player in the Sun Belt title chance again?

If there was any semblance of defensive production last season, things would've been far different and Roberts would've still been the head coach. ASU should've been able to beat Louisiana, was in the hunt against Troy, and should've come away with wins against Indiana and Western Kentucky. Throw in the 31-24 loss to FIU in the season finale, and the Red Wolves lost five games by seven points or fewer with a two-point loss to IU and a one point heartbreaker to WKU.

Five games.

4-8 could easily be 6-6 with this veteran team doing more in crunch time, and 8-4 and a huge turnaround wouldn't be that crazy if everything clicks at once.

There's still a lot of work to do with the offensive line undergoing an overhaul, and with the defensive front needing to prove it can stop someone's running game, but the Sun Belt isn't the SEC West; going from bad to special isn't that hard. This Arkansas State team can do it, and it should be an entertaining ride.

What to watch for on offense: More bombing away. The running game has several good backs to work with. Derek Lawson and Jermaine Robertson could carry the offense, while the quarterbacks can run. However, the attack will revolve around the passing game with Ryan Aplin a veteran, seasoned decision-maker with a loaded receiving corps to work with. Taylor Stockemer is a dangerous, big deep threat, Dwayne Frampton is a quick interior receiver, and Allen Muse is a 6-4 slot target who finished second on the team last season. Throw in both starting tight ends and the possible emergence of troubled former Oklahoma prospect Josh Jarboe, and a 4,000-yard passing season isn't crazy.

What to watch for on defense: The run defense. Last in the Sun Belt and 110th in the nation, ASU gave up 207 yards per game and allowed 21 touchdown runs. It didn't help to start out the season against Auburn and having to deal with Navy, but seven teams cranked out 200 yards or more with great backs like WKU's Bobby Rainey and UNT's Lance Dunbar running wild. The Red Wolves went 2-5 when allowing 200 yards or more, and now the defensive front six – and occasionally a front seven – has to do more even with two new tackles.

The team will be far better if … it starts to do all the little things right. You don't lose as many close games as ASU did without having problems, and a lot of the issues came down to mistakes at the wrong times. The offense converted just 34% of its third down chances, while the defense couldn't get off the field. ASU couldn't come up with any of its three onside kick attempts, while opponents recovered two of their four tries. And then there were the turnovers. ASU didn't have big problems with giveaways, but it was 0-3 when Ryan Aplin threw two picks and was 2-6 when he threw any interceptions.

The schedule: If the Red Wolves can take care of the little fish on the road, they should have a big chance to make plenty of Sun Belt noise against the big fish. FIU and Troy, likely the two best teams in the conference, have to come to ASU and there's two weeks to prepare for the Trojans and ten days to get ready for the Golden Panthers. The non-conference slate has two rough paydays against Illinois and Virginia Tech, but Memphis and Central Arkansas are winnable. Starting out the Sun Belt slate on the road at WKU and ULM will make-or-break the conference season. If ASU can pull off those two, the home game against FIU will be huge.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Ryan Aplin. The 6-1, 205-pounder got his feet wet as a freshman, and then he put it all together last season throwing for 2,934 yards and 21 touchdowns while finishing second on the team in rushing with 477 yards. The 11 rushing scores helped him earn All-Sun Belt honors, and now the spotlight will be on to do even more. The receiving corps is loaded, the running game is fine, and there are more than enough weapons to make Aplin look great.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Demario Davis. The defense is hoping for the line to step up and become a rock against the run, and it would be nice if the tackles were stars, but it's Davis who has the range, the size, and the experience to be a top tacklers and good all-around playmaker. Can he start to do more in the backfield? Can he do even more against the pass after making two picks? He's the leader who should set the tone.

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT Delano Moore. Defensive tackles Amos Draper and Ryan Carrethers have to roll to make the run defense work, and it would be nice if a free safety would emerge, but ASU is all about the offense. The skill players might be in place, but they need Aplin to stay upright. Four new starters will get the call up front, and Moore has to be the best of the lot. The senior left tackle is strong and tough, but all that matters is whether or not he can protect the passer.

The season will be a success if … ASU wins seven games. The offense should be able to bomb its way to wins even if the defense hasn't improved. The last seven-win campaign came in 1987, and it's time to finally get back over the hump. Home wins over Central Arkansas, North Texas, and Louisiana-Lafayette are a must, and if ASU is good enough to be in the hunt for seven wins, it'll be good enough to beat WKU and ULM on the road. It'll take a few upsets, like at Florida Atlantic, but again, the firepower should be enough to get past several of the mediocre teams.

Key game: Oct. 18 vs. Florida International. If you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. ASU has to come up with wins against WKU and ULM on the road to start the Sun Belt slate, and if it doesn't, that makes the FIU showdown in Jonseboro all the more important. The Red Wolves lost in a heartbreaker last season after giving up a 42-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes.

2010 Fun Stats:
- ASU Third Quarter Scoring: 42 – ASU Fourth Quarter Scoring: 142
- Time of Possession: Opponents 33:03 – Arkansas State 26:57
- Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 13-of-19 (68%) – Arkansas State 7-of-16 (44%)

- 2011 Arkansas State Preview | 2011 Arkansas State Offense
- 2011 Arkansas State Defense | 2011 Arkansas State Depth Chart
- Arkansas State Previews 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006